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TWAS Review 2002-2003

  1. Introduction
  2. Searchroom and other public services
  3. Access to Archives
  4. Accessions
  5. Conservation
  6. Education
  7. Outreach
  8. Records Management
  9. Northern Region Film & Television Archive
  10. Conclusion

1. Introduction

A great deal of time during the past year was taken up by the Best Value Review of the Archives Service. Nevertheless it was also a busy year on other fronts too.

2. Searchroom and other public services

The number of personal visitors to the archives service increased once more this year, after a slight fall last year. 7933 people used the searchroom in comparison with 7716 in 2001/2.

Graph showing number of visitors to TWAS

73% of visitors gave an address in Tyne & Wear and the chart shows the breakdown between districts. There was a small increase in the number of visitors from overseas - 117 from the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, South Africa, Venezuela, Bahrain, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Austria and Denmark.

66% of visitors were pursuing family history. This percentage has been decreasing for the last few years. The biggest increases were seen in visits by learners and by those investigating general local history.

Statistics on web visits were incomplete for the year due to technical problems with our hosting service, but certainly increased again on the previous year at over 80,000, viewing over half a million pages. For the purposes of performance indicators for future years we will measure page views which stood at 175,628 for the year.

Enquiries received by post, fax and e-mail increased by 18%, with the biggest increase seen in e-mails. Telephone enquiries, however, declined by 32%. In addition we carried out 329 hours of paid research.

We continued to assist with miners' respiratory disease claims against British Coal, dealing with 95 in the course of the year. These were charged at the same rate as the research service.

3. Access to Archives

There was further progress in improving access to the archives in the course of the year.

84 new catalogues were completed and a further 20 updated with new material. Some of the more interesting or significant ones included papers W H Shipley, parachutist of South Shields. Buddle Schools, Wallsend, P H Matthiesson & Co, shipping agents, North Shields Association Football Club, Northumberland Lawn Tennis Association, Newcastle election papers 1830, Ralph Gardner High School, North Shields, the Typographical Association, Newcastle and District Branch, and the National Society of Electrotypers and Stereotypers, Newcastle Branch.

A number of catalogues were completed through the Wellcome funding for improving access to Research Resources in Medical History, including Sunderland Royal Infirmary, Sunderland Children's Hospital, Ryhope General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne Dental Hospital & School and papers of Captain Alexander David Peacock RAMC. Unfortunately the archivist who was working on this project left, and a first attempt to fill the post failed to attract any suitable applicants.

We also received our electronic files from the A2A project for retrospective conversion of catalogues and as a result 72 existing catalogues were uploaded to our CALM system. This enables full searching capabilities for the first time. Over 400 still remain to be done.

4. Accessions

There were 182 accessions of records during the year, a further increase on the 154 received the previous year.

Some of the more significant included papers of John Rippington, local historian, mainly relating to Jarrow, papers of the No Business on the Town Moor Campaign, records of Avero Publications, of W J Affleck & Co, ship brokers, North Shields, of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, of Sunderland Club Ltd., of Wideopen Women's Institute, of Atkins Ltd, Chemists, of the Civil and Public Service Association, Newcastle Central Office branch, of Whitley Bay Male Voice Choir, of the International Order of Good Templars, Northumberland District, sound recordings of McKenzie Medi@, media production company, and further records of J & W Lowry Ltd. and the Lowry family. Records of the Grainger Town Project were received on its winding up.

We bought some diaries of Andrew Leslie, shipbuilder, at auction in Taunton.

Three of Newcastle's guilds, the Incorporated Company of Smiths, the Scriveners Company and the Incorporated Company of Butchers, all deposited further records dating back to the17th century.

One of the most unusual accessions was a visitors book and autograph book from Mrs Storey's theatrical lodgings, Swinburne Place, Newcastle. The books contain the names of a number of famous guests.

Several collections were transferred from North Tyneside Libraries including papers of George Horton, artist, Tynemouth Indigent Sick Society, Invalids' Kitchen Society, Ladies Benevolent Dorcas and Nursing Society, Whitley Bay, Monkseaton & District Horticultural Society, The Whitley Club, North Shields Association Football Club, Cullercoats Regent Club, Whitley Bay & District Society of St Andrew and Bewicke First School, Willington Quay

A number of schools closed or were reorganised throughout the area and we received records from Battle Hill Nursery, High Farm Middle School and Buddle Schools, Wallsend, St Peter's Church of England School, Jarrow, Central Middle School, Wallsend, Western First School, Wallsend, Western Middle School, Wallsend, Firfield Community School, Newcastle, Chevyside Middle School, Newcastle, High Usworth Infants School, High Usworth Junior School, Dubmire Infants School, Houghton le Spring, Holy Cross RC Primary School, Willington Quay and St Aidan's RC School, Willington Quay. Older records of St Thomas School, Newcastle upon Tyne emerged via the Durham Record Office. Westerhope First School also deposited records after a photograph of pupils holding a somewhat battered log book was spotted in a local newspaper.

5. Conservation

Following staffing changes the Conservation Manager has now taken on full responsibility for our building, previously shared with the Principal Archivist, together with management of the General Assistants. The aim was to place preservation at the heart of the environment throughout the building, and the handling of the records themselves.

The conservators contributed a great deal to the Best Value Review, including plans for upgrading the storage areas in the short to medium term, a proposal to purchase box-making equipment, and developing a scheme for prioritisation of conservation work. Unfortunately the first two cannot be implemented without appropriate funding being identified.

One of the major pieces of work was the preparation and framing of copies of some of Jimmy Forsyth's photographs for an exhibition to accompany the book Out of One Eye. The exhibition was also the stimulus for devising a new hanging system for the archives service's corridor at Blandford House, enabling the hanging of framed items without damage to the listed panelling.

The conservators also contributed a session on care for personal archives to the Local History Week events in May.

6. Education

In the course of the year the Education Officer worked directly with 82 groups, slightly fewer than the previous year's 87, but involving 1556 individuals as compared with 1368 the previous year.

Work with schools included links with one in Keswick where many pupils from Newcastle were evacuated during the Second World War. Barnes Junior School in Sunderland linked their study of the Victorians with celebrating the school's own centenary.

A collaboration with the Northern Grid for Learning has resulted in a new educational website, An Infantryman's Diary, featuring papers of Sgt. William Falcus of Sandyford, Newcastle on his experiences in the First World War. The website can be found at http://www.northerngrid.org/ngflwebsite/infantryman/.

The Education Officer has developed a course Where the Hobgoblins Are in collaboration with the University of Northumbria Social Work degree. The course uses archival records to explore children's experiences over the centuries.

For older learners Newcastle and Gateshead branches of the Alzheimers Society used royal memorabilia and the jubilee to trigger happy memories. The Education Officer also worked with Bridging the Gap, North Tyneside and St Thomas More School on an intergenerational oral history project It's the way we tell it. This went on to win a national NOJO (not old just older) award.

A proposed collaborative DVD with the Northern Region Film & Television Archive was unfortunately abandoned due to the insistence of the Department for Education & Skills on claiming copyright in the contents. This problem has also affected other projects elsewhere, and DfES is re-examining its policy.

However, a bid written for a NEMLAC strategic development grant on behalf of NERAC was successful and will fund an education consultant to review archives in education in the region in the coming year.

7. Outreach & partnership

Local History Week in May saw a programme of events including a talk on shipbuilding by expert Joe Clarke, and a film show by the Northern Region Film & Television Archive. Both of these events were very well attended but others were slightly disappointing, possibly because of the variety of competing events offered by local studies libraries.

The Northumbria Anthology, a Millennium Festival funded project, was finally completed this year, and sets of the twenty CDs have been distributed free of charge to archives and libraries throughout the region.

Exhibitions shown during the year included a commemoration of the Queen's jubilee in June and a very successful photographic exhibition to tie in with the publication of a book Out of One Eye about Jimmy Forsyth and his work (in collaboration with Newcastle City Libraries' Tyne Bridge Publishing). The latter has toured Newcastle and Gateshead Central Libraries and Benwell Library as well as showing at Blandford House.

The Chief Archivist continued to chair the North East Regional Archives Council and to represent that body on the board of NEMLAC. Her term of office on the board of Culture North East came to an end. She also continued as vice chair of the Society of Archivists.

Rachel Gill was elected secretary of the northern region of the Society of Archivists, and Alan Hayward as its training officer.

The Chief Archivist attended the Society of Archivists conference in Jersey, and Matt Parsons attended the Society's Conservation conference in Stafford.

8. Records Management

A fundamental examination of the records management service was carried out as part of the Best Value Review, with the recommendation that we should cease to offer a service to private clients, as well as reducing direct storage for the local authorities in order to provide a more strategic advisory service across all five districts. This will be implemented in year 5 of the review period.

In the meantime the service has continued to provide a useful source of income, although this was slightly reduced this year by continuing building work affecting the records centre.

9. Northern Region Film & Television Archive

The NRFTA has had another successful year operationally although legal issues with regard to its independent status have still not been resolved.

The new building at the University of Teesside has been completed and awaits agreement to begin moving the master film material.

Over 500 reels of new material have been acquired, the highlight being two local topicals of Houghton-le-Spring in 1927-8. The nitrate originals have been copied for preservation.

A series of three programmes using the archive's resources have been made by BBC Newcastle and were aired in February/March. These were originally scheduled for regional broadcast only but were given a network slot on BBC2, possibly as a pilot for similar collaborations with other regional archives. Feedback from viewers both within and outside the region has been very positive and the programmes were reviewed in several national newspapers.

10. Conclusion

Although the Best Value Review process took up a great deal of time and resources there continued to be achievements in many areas of the service. This was achieved in spite of the vacancy in a senior manager's post for the first half of the year.

The priority for the coming year will be to address some of the issues raised by the Review, and particularly to make progress with regard to the acommodation.